Therapy – storm cloud


Does this look like some kind of squished Martian face to you? Just wondering….lol.

Therapy on Friday was better. I don’t feel like describing the blow by blow though. Maybe the feelings are more important than the words exchanged anyway. I still have anxiety driving to therapy, but it’s a lot lower than last year at least. And not being triggered by group was a nice change – that made less mess to address it seemed.

We got into the emails I’d sent Ron right away. I’d printed them out. Funny, they made me cringe reading them once I was no longer angry and triggered. Even the ones that weren’t angry.

We went over what had happened at group the week before. I told Ron he was asking too much of me, that I couldn’t respond to his comments on ‘connecting’ when I was in this space. I thought it was a traumatized child part actually. That part attacks. It’s not obvious, like the kid is, because this part is older and her mind is more mature. Doesn’t mean it’s not a kid part. It seems to me when this part is triggered, it runs on a track and she can’t really respond to adult type comments on connecting with others. Her job is to protect by attacking.

Ron mulled this over a bit. The tone of our conversations was thoughtful, rather than angry as the previous one had been. Ron seemed to be making an effort to see things at least partially the way I do, though he did stick to his points mostly. He thinks I have trouble accepting his feedback, I see it as criticism when he means it to be helpful.

Well, welcome to therapy. I doubt I’m the only client who has trouble accepting feedback. I tell Ron my problem is in the group he seems to turn into my enemy. Ron asks why that is and I don’t know.

We go over these same points several times, not really getting anywhere. I’m staying logical, trying to have this calm discussion in an adult type of way. It’s pretty tough.

At one point Ron wonders if the part that emerged in group wasn’t so much the traumatized child part, but a protector part. Which was the only new thing he said that session. I hadn’t thought of this – it could be. It’s a part I don’t like, that causes people to dislike me whenever it is triggered out, and causes me intense shame after it subsides again.

Ron keeps saying things I basically agree with, which I tell him. So why does the fact that he’s talking make me feel so frantic and unheard?

Though I do like how serious he is this session. Like this is important and he’s trying to understand.

I ask him why I fall into this awful anxiety state after the last session, where I couldn’t function for days. I don’t think Ron has an explanation. I talk about my sad history with men I’ve cared about, boyfriends, fantasy boyfriends, my ex husband. I wonder if I should see a female therapist, so my problems with men wouldn’t be triggered in this awful way.

Near the end of the session, I am listening to him, then I start to feel angry and unheard, so I interrupt him and say that. I also say I agree with what he’s saying, so what I’m feeling is not really making sense to me. Then, I feel a really bad feeling coming towards me. It’s like an angry storm cloud racing in from the right. I have a boundary of clear air protecting me, but I can feel the cloud. The feeling frightens me a lot, and I switch into the kid.

And time’s up. Ron asks if we should touch base that evening with a short phone call, as I’m upset. So I say yes, he sets a time and I dash out of the office.

At home I fall into a shut-down kind of a nap, then wake up massively depressed.

It seems that behind some of these arguing interchanges with Ron are other feelings from the past. Just mostly I can’t feel them. Sticking to my guns, but not being that logical, allowed me to become aware of the feelings. I don’t know what they are about, but they seem to be driving my dysfunctional behaviour.

This time I don’t feel that my feelings are Ron’s fault. That is a relief.

  1. You’re right that you can’t take in feedback when you are in that state–it took me time to learn that as well. I can’t think about anything logically at all. Any logic I attempt to engage in will run along a very narrow track that mimics the logic of particular traumas. Your prefrontal cortex is shut down during these times when the trauma is re-activated. The inability to take in anything reasonable is biologically based and out of your conscious control.

    A protector part can also be a child part. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I have a 5 year-old protector part and and a 13-year-old protector part. They are not, in fact, equipped to protect me.

    I’m glad you had an easier week.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting. I certainly felt shut down at the time. Interesting you have two protector parts. Hope I have just the one, that’s plenty. You are so right – this part does not do a good job of protecting me, she just causes more mayhem and problems. Thanks for sharing your experience, that’s really helpful. take care

  2. Harriet said:

    I have something to say about what you said about feedback, that Ron says you have trouble accepting his feedback. But I am not sure what I have to say about it. Something isn’t sitting right with me about that, but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe that you don’t want feedback? Or don’t need it? That you would prefer to explore your feelings? I’m not sure, but this has triggered something in me. Is therapy about getting feedback from a therapist? Not necessarily I don’t think.

    I also cringe when I read emails that I have written in anger, or sadness, or while feeling disconnected and misunderstood. Some I can’t read at all.

    • Ellen said:

      Therapy the way Ron does it is about him providing insight. He also helps me process feelings, which is the part I most appreciate. I don’t find his insights that earth shattering – I mostly know the stuff he says, at the moment anyway. Sometimes he does say something new.

      Interesting about the emails. I wonder if we hate to see ourselves so vulnerable and hurt when we no longer are in that state.

      Thanks Harriet

  3. Gel said:

    I had a feeling similar to what Harriet wrote about when I read that line that you said Ron said to you. I also can’t know what he meant but it made me cringe too. It sounds like a negative judgement not constructive feedback. If you do in fact have trouble accepting feed back then would being told that help you accept it? I also don’t know his tone of voice when he said that. His tone of voice (and expression) could give it different meaning.

    You wrote: “Ron keeps saying things I basically agree with, which I tell him. So why does the fact that he’s talking make me feel so frantic and unheard?”….When I read this I thought that your rational adult self is maybe the part that does hear and understand and agree with Ron. But it is the hurt part(s), or the younger non-rational parts of you that don’t feel heard by him?

    Have you considered just asking him to say back to you what he hears you saying? In NVC one of the parts of it is to listen to someone with your whole being and then to say back what you heard is important to them. This is so they can really sense being heard and understood. So often when we listen to others we jump ahead to give advice in an effort to be helpful. Good intention but often what we need is to be really heard and understood, deeply before going towards solutions.

    If someone said to me that they feel frantic I wouldn’t respond by saying “there is nothing to be frantic about here”. I might say ” wow that must be really uncomfortable to feel frantic”, I would ask them if they’d like to tell me more about it.

    You wrote ” I’m staying logical, trying to have this calm discussion in an adult type of way. It’s pretty tough.” It’s clear to me that you are a very capable person and you have great intentions in that you want to maintain a good connection by staying rational and calm in these interactions. But it sounds like that doesn’t leave room for letting the other parts of you express themselves and get heard and get healed? Maybe I don’t understand you particular struggle with parts. I don’t think I have that issue. So I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m trying to express my concern that parts of you don’t get to be deeply heard. I thought a therapist would help you bring out these parts even if it’s awkward, so they can be healed. They’d help you integrate the parts? There’s a lot I don’t know so I should probably end this line of thought.

    In that last paragraph it seems like you are really getting close to something big. You have an amazing drive to heal. It’s really inspiring.

    • Ellen said:

      I know what you’re saying about good communication. I actually had to learn that for my work, and I’ve found it’s so helpful to show clients that I’ve heard them, summarize their views, before offering a different view. It makes a huge difference. And when I do that in a session, showing Ron I’m hearing what he is saying, it lowers the tension a lot. I have told Ron before I don’t feel heard. I don’t want to tell him what to do, as he doesn’t respond well to that. He is overall very interested in letting other parts of me speak, but it’s up to me to actually do that. He is good at going with whatever is happening, he doesn’t insist on staying rational at all.

      I think some of this is an issue I have with being told what to do and how it is which goes far beyond the usual. I need to struggle with that and find the feelings underneath. There was something major going on at the end of the session, for sure. Thanks for the kind words and for the thoughtful comment.

  4. i can’t tell you how awesome it is to read about all the risks you took during this session. speaking up when you felt unheard. telling him about feeling criticized vs. being given feedback. even going back after that series of emails. i am not so sure that we can resolve these feelings (being unheard, for instance) using the “logical” part of our brains, although i think that part of us needs to be there in session, too. i think it’s deeper stuff that needs to be healed… maybe it’s our brains that get us there… maybe not. there’s nothing easy about this and i don’t really know why therapy sometimes works and the things our therapists say make all kinds of sense and the reasons for something click into place and sometimes why they don’t and we just end up frustrated and feeling misunderstood, and for me, feeling like a big dummy.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for the kind words Catherine. I agree with everything you’re saying and it’s great to read it. Therapy is mysterious in many ways, and that’s not a bad thing. Important relationships are mysterious too. I do feel like I’ve made some kind of step forward.

  5. ps there are martians everywhere. just everywhere! ha ha

    • Ellen said:

      And the really scary thing is we are the only ones aware of them….:-)

  6. weareonebyruth said:

    Yea, I understand those naps. Not my favorite either. It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt rested afterward….
    Just a thought, ignore it if you need to, have you considered that if logic would solve how you feel you wouldn’t be struggling? I think sometimes we try so hard to work things out with logic when the problem is illogical and emotional. I had one protector that actually protected me from myself but made a total hash of all other relationships. Child’s way of solving a problem is anger and lashing out. Exploring that may hold a key to what the parts are trying to protect. Ellen I think you are doing great. You are speaking up when before you would remain quiet. High five for speaking up.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Ruth, it sounds very similar. High five!

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